Schools with Tax Preparation Programs: How to Choose

Tax preparation programs may be useful to students who are interested in doing their own taxes each year or who wish to become professional tax accountants. Students may choose from certificate programs, preparatory programs and seminars, in addition to individual courses.

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Tax preparation programs are often available through community colleges and sometimes even 4-year colleges and universities. These programs typically don't result in a degree, though some do award certificates.

Schools with Tax Preparation Programs

The following schools offer tax preparation programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
North Seattle College Seattle, Washington 4-year, Public Certificate $4,458 In-state
$9,693 Out-of-state
Oakton Community College Des Plaines, Illinois 2-year, Public Certificate $3,285 In-district
$8,878 In-state
$10,866 Out-of-state
LaGuardia Community College Long Island City, New York 2-year, Public Certificate $635
Glendale Community College Glendale, California 2-year, Public Certificate $1,175 In-state
$5,855 Out-of-state
Southeast Community College Lincoln, Nebraska 2-year, Public Certificate $397
Santa Ana College Santa Ana, California 2-year, Public Certificate $1,142 In-state
$6,902 Out-of-state
Southwest Tennessee Community College Memphis, Tennessee 2-year, Public Certificate $3,963 In-state
$15,363 Out-of-state
Central Carolina Community College Sanford, North Carolina 2-year, Public Certificate $$1,664
Cuyahoga Community College Cleveland, Ohio 2-year, Public Certificate $3,136 In-district
$3,953 In-state
$7,648 Out-of-state

*Source: NCES College Navigator

School Selection Criteria

There are some important considerations to keep in mind when looking for a tax preparation program:

  • Some schools teach students tax preparation for themselves or others, while other schools may offer preparatory programs for the basic IRS exam.
  • Programs can range from one course to a full semester or year. Shorter programs may be useful for personal tax preparation, but students who wish to find employment as a tax preparer may need to consider a more in-depth program.
  • Students who are not interested in semester-long or year-long commitments could pursue seminar programs in tax preparation that generally meet for 1-2 full days.
  • Programs that offer hands-on experience in the form of supervised tax preparation internships or community programs could increase real-world knowledge and enhance student resumes.

Basic Certificate in Tax Preparation

Basic tax preparation curriculum teaches students how to complete federal and state returns for individuals. These programs may include as few as three classes and 15 credit hours of coursework. Graduates are prepared to sit for the basic IRS certification exam.

Advanced Certificate in Tax Preparation

Advanced certificates typically move past individual tax returns and focus on more complex issues, including taxes for small businesses, farms and corporations. Completion of such a program qualifies students to sit for the advanced IRS certification examination, though preparatory classes for the examination may not be included in the standard curriculum.

Seminar in Tax Preparation

Seminars in tax preparation are short, focused programs designed to educate individuals in both basic and advanced tax knowledge. Seminars are similar to certificate programs in that the basic seminars focus primarily on individual federal and state returns and advanced seminars focus on more complex issues and are designed for people with tax preparation experience.

Tax preparation programs are usually available as a seminar or certificate program. Basic programs focus on individual tax returns, while more advanced programs address areas such as business tax forms, accounting and payroll taxes.

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